Where They Lived: Page, Hathaway, and Spinks

 

 February is Black History Month and two recent celebrity deaths prompted me to do this post. I’ll begin with the opening lines to RuPaul’s 1992 dance hit Supermodel (You Better Work): [Spoken Intro: LaWanda Page and RuPaul] Once upon a time, there was a little black girl, in the Brewster …

New Book — ‘Candy Men: The Story of Switzer’s Licorice’ by Patrick Murphy

 

 Prior to this new book my only knowledge of Switzer Licorice was the 19th century building in Laclede’s Landing that collapsed during a wind storm in July 2006. The sweet smell of licorice and the giant candy bar painted on the factory wall at the Eads Bridge remain locked into …

Newish Book: ‘Growing Up In Old North St. Louis’, 2nd Edition by Patrick J. Kleaver

 

 I receive quite a few new books from publishers throughout each year, but late last year I received an email from a self-published author. Patrick Kleaver invited me to check out the 2nd edition of his book from the library. I’m interested in the perspectives of people who grew up …

I Was Partially Wrong About How Our Non-Partisan Elections Will Work

 

 I try to avoid making mistakes, but it does happen. I like to verify information before publishing these posts, but when I didn’t get an answer from the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners I should’ve looked harder to find the answer. My apologies if my mistake caused any confusion. …

Recent Articles:

Sunday Poll: Was Razing Mill Creek Valley the City’s Only Option?

February 16, 2020 Featured, Sunday Poll, Urban Renewal Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Was Razing Mill Creek Valley the City’s Only Option?
 
Please vote below

On February 16, 2013 STL250 shared a 1956 photo of Mayor Raymond Tucker looking at Mill Creek Valley, with the following caption:

This Day in St. Louis History, February 16, 1959:
Mill Creek Valley becomes “Hiroshima Flats”

With $7 million from a 1955 St. Louis Civic Progress bond issue and $21 million in federal funds, the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority began clearing the 454 acres of Mill Creek Valley, from Lindell on the north and Scott on the south, and Twentieth on the east and Grand on the west. The historically black area’s homes and dilapidated buildings were razed for 132 acres of industrial sites, 26 acres of commercial, 83 acres of residential, a 22 acre extension of St. Louis University across Grand, and the Ozark Expressway. 1,772 families and 610 individuals were displaced, some of the poorest in the city, and almost all black. Slow redevelopment after the rather quick destruction gained the giant empty fields of land the nickname of “Hiroshima Flats.” The Mill Creek Valley site is now covered by the portion of St. Louis University east of Grand, Harris Stowe State University, and the Wells Fargo Advisors buildings.

Here’s more:

By World War II, Mill Creek’s tenements and faded town houses were home to nearly 20,000 people, many of them poor blacks who had migrated north from the cotton fields. More than half the dwellings lacked running water, and 80 percent didn’t have interior bathrooms.

Tucker proposed knocking over nearly everything and starting over. In 1955, city voters overwhelmingly approved a $10 million bond issue for demolition, on the promise that the federal government would reimburse most of it. The local NAACP endorsed the idea. Work began on Feb. 16, 1959, at 3518 Laclede Avenue, where a headache ball smashed a house that dated to the 1870s. (Post-Dispatch)

From an upcoming book on Mill Creek Valley:

On December 16, 1950, my grandmother purchased a house from her landlords, Richard and Betty Bennett, at 2649 Bernard Street in Mill Creek for $1,400. She had saved the $100 down payment from her meager salary. Twenty years after leaving Earl, Arkansas, for St. Louis, she would finally have a home of her own with her son, his wife, and their eight children. She would be the last in a long line of owners of the hundred-year-old Italianate- style two-story dwelling.

My grandmother was unaware of the city’s plans when she bought her house in the neighborhood where she had lived since leaving the South. However, politicians, realtors, and religious and business leaders knew what the future held for this 450-acre neighborhood. Egged on by a series of derisive articles in the local media, the city was moving to deem the area “blighted.” The designation would pave the way for the eventual erasure of an entire African American community to make way for an interstate highway to the suburbs.

There you have it, an overview of Mill Creek Valley.  It was sixty-one years ago today that demolition began, so that’s the subject of today’s poll.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 32 of 2019-2020 Session

February 14, 2020 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 32 of 2019-2020 Session
 

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen meet at 10am today, their 32nd meeting of the 2019-2020 session. As previously noted, they have the first two meetings labeled as Week #1, so they list this as week/meeting 31.

Today’s agenda includes seven (7) new bills.

  • B.B.#217 – Roddy – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Mayor and Comptroller of the City of St. Louis to execute, upon receipt of and in consideration of the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($250.00) and other good and valuable consideration, a Quit Claim Deed to remise, release, and forever quit-claim unto Julia D. Lopez and Veronica A. Nold certain City-owned property located in City Block 5114, which property is known and numbered as 4219 Gibson Avenue in the City of St. Louis, Missouri.
  • B.B.#218 – Roddy – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Mayor and Comptroller of the City of St. Louis to execute, upon receipt of and in consideration of the sum of One Thousand Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($1,250.00) and other good and valuable consideration, a Quit Claim Deed to remise, release, and forever quit-claim unto The Transgender Memorial, LLC certain City-owned property located in City Block 3984, which property is known and numbered as 1485-1487 South Vandeventer Avenue in the City of St. Louis, Missouri.
  • B.B.#219 – Navarro/Coatar/Ingrassia/Guenther/Green/Rice/ Narayan – An ordinance entitled “Building Energy Performance Standards”; the purpose of this ordinance is to establish energy performance standards for certain buildings in the City of St. Louis.
  • B.B.#220 – Clark-Hubbard – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate above surface, surface and sub-surface rights for vehicle, equestrian and pedestrian travel in the 15 foot wide north/south alley in City Block 3874-W as bounded by Waterman, Clara, Pershing and DeBaliviere in the City of St. Louis, Missouri, as hereinafter de- scribed, in accordance with Charter authority, and in conformity with Section l4 of Article XXI of the Charter and imposing certain conditions on such vacation.
  • B.B.#221 – Ingrassia/Navarro – An ordinance revising certain sections of the City’s zoning code in order allow Short-Term Rental, as the term is defined in this ordinance, in the Zoning Districts and in accordance with the requirements of this ordinance.
  • B.B.#222 – Ingrassia/Navarro – An ordinance to promote Short- Term Rentals in the City of St. Louis, preserve residential communities, and provide equal opportunity for traditional short-term lodging providers by authorizing the Building Commissioner, along with the advisement of a Short-Term Rental Task Force, and consistent with the Revised Code of the City of St. Louis, and other applicable law to facilitate the regulation of Short-Term Rentals as defined herein, and containing an effective date.
  • B.B.#223 – Ingrassia/Pres. Reed/Navarro/Martin/Rice – An Ordinance establishing a Paid Parental and Caregiver Leave program for the City of St. Louis’ full-time, exempt employees. This program will establish two benefits: Paid Parental Leave and Paid Caregiver Leave. These benefits will complement current leave options such as vacation and sick leave; including an Effective Date.

As we’re nearing the end of the 2019-2020 session these new bills may be the last introduced.

The Board of Aldermen meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2019-2020 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: Hyperloop Project Impossible Without Eminent Domain

February 12, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Hyperloop Project Impossible Without Eminent Domain
 

Legislators in Jefferson City have given initial approval to the idea of a Hyperloop connecting St. Louis to Kansas City. However, an amendment bans the use of eminent domain. (Source).

An experimental Hyperloop pod on display in downtown St. Louis in October 2019.

Before going any further, here are some definitions:

  • Hyperloop:  A proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX. Hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient, thereby drastically reducing travel times over medium-range distances. (Wikipedia)
  • Eminent Domain: Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.  (Wex Law Dictionary)

Although the proposed project would largely follow the existing I-70 right-of-way, there might be bits of land needed here and there over such a long distance. An outright ban on the use of eminent domain will kill the project.

Still trying to decide if that’s a good or bad thing — I’m still not sold on the idea being feasible. If it does get built I’m pretty sure I won’t live to see the ribbon cutting.

Another view of the experimental Hyperloop pod on display in downtown St. Louis in October 2019.

Here are the non-scientific results of the recent Sunday Poll: 

Q: Agree or disagree: A Hyperloop system can be built connecting St. Louis with Kansas City without using eminent domain.

  • Strongly agree: 0 [0%]
  • Agree: 1 [5.26%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [15.79%]
  • Disagree: 7 [36.84%]
  • Strongly disagree: 8 [42.11%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Rather than have a ban they should have limited criteria for the use of eminent domain. Experts could help draft criteria so property owners adjacent to I-70 ROW could be reassured that huge swaths of their land won’t be taken away.

Otherwise the project is impossible, we shouldn’t even fund a test section.

— Steve Patterson

Examining the St. Louis MLS Stadium Site Plan, Part 4

February 10, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Examining the St. Louis MLS Stadium Site Plan, Part 4
 

In parts 1-3 I looked at the areas south, north, and east of the coming soccer stadium. Today a look at the area west of the new stadium.

The site plan has the stadium at the top, bounded by Olive on the north, 20th on the east, and a new 22nd Street on the west. Pine will be closed between 20th and 22nd. Team offices and two practice fields will be south of Market.
This image shows the two block long section of Pine that’ll be vacated. Surveyors were working the day last fall that I was out photographing.
The tallest structure in the area west of the stadium is the Pear Tree Inn, 2211 Market Street. Built in 1965 it’s unfortunately set back from Market Street in a very suburban manner. There’s no pedestrian accessible route…just an automobile parking lot. I’d like to see the space between the tower and street infilled over time to urbanize Market Street. It seems wasteful to raze the entire property and start over, but that would likely produce a better product — good for another 50+ years.
The back of the Pear Tree, at 23rd & Pine, a low rise parking garage also built in 1965. The site is a full city block, it is underutilized.
Across Pine from the Pear Tree Inn’s garage is a building type more typical of the area — boring single story infill. 2229 Pine was also built in 1965.
Across 23rd from the Pear Tree garage is a little warehouse building from 1948, currently used as a resale shop.
View of the northwest corner of 23rd & Pine, as seen from the southeast corner.
The St. Louis American newspaper leases the 1964 one-story building at 2315 Pine.
Across Pine is Stray Rescue at 2320 Pine, built in 1964. They own this building and the 1948 warehouse shown earlier. Owning their building will help insulate them if demand for the area increases dramatically in the coming decades.
Moving north to Olive we have the Firestone tire & auto at 2310 Olive — built in 1964 (seeing the pattern?)
On the southeast corner of 23rd & Olive is the Lincoln Hotel, 2222-2230 Olive. Built in 1928, this is the oldest structure directly west of the new stadium.
The Lincoln isn’t a fancy boutique hotel, it’s an SRO — single room occupancy. I fear the new stadium will put economic pressure on the owner to turn it into an expensive hotel, reducing the number of SRO rooms in the city.
The Lincoln as seen from the rear alley.

It appears in the 1960s nearly every building west of the new highway ramps was razed and replaced. Thankfully they left the street grid, though Pine is one-way westbound to Jefferson.

This couple of blocks of Pine between the new stadium at 22nd and Jefferson will need to be returned to 2-way traffic. This will need to include a signal change or removal at Jefferson — likely planned as part of the changes to Jefferson being made to help workers get from I-64 to the new NGA West headquarters being built at Jefferson & Cass.

I suspect the west side of the stadium along 22nd will be the back side, but maybe those functions will be part of the underground access. Hopefully it’ll be presentable.

Expect the area bounded by 22nd, Market, Jefferson, and Olive to look very different 30+ years from now, maybe much sooner.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Can A STL-KC Hyperloop Get Built Without The Use Of Eminent Domain?

February 9, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Can A STL-KC Hyperloop Get Built Without The Use Of Eminent Domain?
 
Please vote below

The idea of a high speed tube transportation system connecting St. Louis to Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas) was back in the news recently after getting initial approval the Missouri House:

Although the long-term goal is to connect St. Louis and Kansas City with a pneumatic tube people mover that could transport passengers across the state in 30 minutes, a recent study commissioned by House Speaker Elijah Haahr recommends the state should first build a 15-mile track to test the feasibility of the concept.

The report put the price tag on the test track at $300 million to $500 million. The cost to build a track linking St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City is estimated at $10.4 billion.

Before lawmakers gave their approval, however, Fitzwater proposed an amendment that would ban eminent domain for tube transport systems. (Post-Dispatch)

For those unfamiliar with the term eminent domain

Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners. (Wex legal dictionary)

My one and only Hyperloop poll was in October 2018, and readers were split on Missouri being able to afford such a massive project.

Today’s poll is about the amendment banning the use of eminent domain added to the Hyperloop bill.

As always, today’s poll will close at 8pm. On Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts on Hyperloop and eminent domain.

— Steve Patterson

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